Have We Lost Law and Order In America?
Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City have elevated the levels of racism and bigotry across the country.
One race sees justice denied while others see justice confirmed. But regardless of evidence, deliberation or verdicts two people are dead who should not be. And someone has to be at fault for that.
But these two recent events don't begin to tell the whole story.
December 22, 1984
Thirty years ago today, R22 subway car 7657, the seventh car of a ten-car train, pulled into the Broadway-Seventh Avenue Express Line and four men boarded the train.
Barry Allen (19), Troy Canty (19), Darrell Cabey (19) and James Ramseur (18), four black men, who admitted in later testimony, that they were on their way to Manhattan to steal cash from video arcade machines. All were carrying screwdrivers.
The Plan of Attack
At the 14th Street Station in Manhattan 15-20 passengers remained in the car when Bernard Goetz entered the train and took a seat opposite the car door.
Canty and Allen were across from Goetz sitting on either side of the door. Ramseur and Cabey were seated to the right of Goetz. Canty and Allen moved to the other side of Goetz blocking him from the rest of the passengers.
Canty said, “Give me five dollars.” They later testified that they were simply panhandling not threatening anyone with bodily harm.
Crime in New York In 1984
Surveys said crime was the number on negative for living in New York in 1984. The crime rate was 70% higher than the rest of the US. In 1984, there were two homicides, 18 violent crimes and 65 property thefts for each 10,000 New York residents.
Two thirds of residents said they would be willing to hire private security to protect their building or block. Twenty-five percent said they or a family member had been the victim of a crime in the past year.
The First Attack
Three years earlier while Goetz was transporting electronic equipment, he was the victim of an attempted robbery by three youths in the subway. The assault left him with permanent chest and knee injuries.
Goetz and an off duty police officer were successful in arresting one of them but the other two escaped. The charges? — “Criminal Mischief” for ripping Goetz jacket.
Goetz applied for gun permit and was denied. On a trip to Florida he purchased a five-shot, 38 caliber Smith & Wesson Model 38.
When Canty asked for the five dollars Goetz stood, pulled his 38 and shot Canty in the chest, Allen who may have been next to Canty turned to flee and was shot in the back, the third shot entered Ramseur’s arm and into his left side.
He next fired at Cabey and missed, fired again hitting him in the side, severing his spinal cord leaving him a paraplegic.
Six of the jurors had been victims of street crimes. Neither Goetz nor the four men testified before the grand jury.
Goetz escaped attempted murder, and first-degree assault charges but was convicted of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, and carrying a loaded unlicensed weapon in a public place.
He was sentenced to six months in jail, one year's psychiatric treatment, five years' probation, 200 hours community service, and a $5,000 fine. An appellate court affirmed the conviction and changed the sentence to one year in jail without probation. Goetz served eight months.
Some Final Thoughts
The similarity of the Goetz shooting, Ferguson, and the New York incident were not viewed as crime they were immediately seen through a racial prism. Three of the four men on the train went on to commit more crimes and served jail time.
They all admitted in later testimony that they were going to rob Goetz. They said he appeared to be an easy target.
Of course those facts don’t mean anything when race is the only issue.
Two races got together and the outcome was death. Black cops killing a black robber, no problem, white cops killing a white robber no problem.
But when hate, and prejudice preclude the evidence no verdict is acceptable to all sides. When, and if, the time comes that we are able to look at the crime and not the race of those involved that’s when justice will be served.
Two New York Police officers shot dead in their car. Where are the demonstrations for them?